About two years ago, as my 39th birthday peeked menacingly around a large, craggy rock and snickered, I decided that I needed to do something spectacular to knock it on its ... bottom. 39 was clearly in cahoots with 40, and they both needed to be put in their collective place.
I've never had any desire to jump out of a plane or scale a snowcovered peak. But I was a bit thrilled by the idea of gliding on a trapeze. It looked like a grown-up swingset.
First off, heights do scare me. But a trapeze's height seemed much more doable than that of, say, a bridge with only a bungee cord holding me to life.
So one cold, sunny day, I went off to Jordan Furniture's Trapeze School, bundled up but still shivering from the anticipation. Would my weak arms be able to hold on? Would I feel that terrifying rollercoaster drop in my stomach?
Before climbing up to the platform, about eight of us were given a prep class to show us what we'd be doing way up there. I made an effort to appear confident and nonplussed, though I'm certain my efforts were wasted. I did this not in an attempt to make myself look good, but to convince myself I wasn't, in fact, terrified. This ruse seemed to work like a charm until the very moment I stepped to the edge of the platform. One has to lean one's hips way forward while holding the bar and having one's back end temporarily secured by the trainer, gravity tugging you down threateningly all the while. It goes against every survival instinct that screams defiantly, "Pull your butt and shoulders back! Curl up away from the edge! Hello? A little help here? Trying to save your life!" It sounds melodramatic, but I felt like two parts of me were in a great internal battle. The brave part quickly cowered up in a corner and said "Okay...This was a cute idea, but never mind."
My voice shook in a kindergartener's-first-day-of-school fashion, as I whimpered to the ridiculously muscled, practical trainer standing behind me, "I'm really, really scared. I'm scared. Oh God. I'm really scared." I think part of me was hoping he'd say, "Do you want to back out?"
His actual reply? "Yep. I know you are. Now bend your knees and get ready." He mercilessly huffed the commands to me, which consisted of a "Hep!" kind of yell. He clearly wasn't going to allow me leave this platform by any means but this unexpectedly heavy bar, which suddenly felt very loose, wobbly and uneven in my sweaty hands.
So I moaned softly in complete terror.
And the amazing part? It was GLORIOUS! It was the most wonderful feeling! NO drop-in-the-stomach at all! It was like being a little kid again on your bike for the first time with no training wheels. I pulled my legs up to the bar, which on our ground practice had been extremely hard. Up there, though, with the momentum, it was a snap. Legs locked over the bar and, upon hearing the command, I let my arms go.
I'm telling you, there is no way to describe it. But I knew that I wanted my own trapeze.
About an hour later, I successfully did a catch, where I swung upside-down again, grabbed the arms of a trainer swinging on a different trapeze, and released my legs from my own trapeze.
So all the fear was groundless (no pun intended) and I was glowing with excitement, pride, and flushed joy. Like a kid at a carnival, I didn't want to leave.
That was two years ago. I'm now tackling a new challenge. No planes, no bungee cords.
Instead, I've started to write a book! I've always wanted to do this, but didn't think I had the imagination left in me to make up a story from my piddly little brain. I loved that scene from Out of Africa, when Meryl Streep's character is asked by her dinnertime visitors to tell a story. She asks for the first sentence, which Robert Redford gives her, and then she spins an elaborate tale over soft candlelight. They all end up at the fireplace, where she tells the last line of the story to their blissful faces.
So that's how I sort of envisioned the process.
Ends up, it doesn't quite work that way. And I couldn't help but notice that Robert Redford was absent. (Sorry, Ryan, you know you're my favorite. A girl has to have her harmless crushes, though.)
This all began last fall, when a seed of a story suddenly showed up. It floated about, even after I smiled politely at it with a thanks-but-no-thank-you look. Yet it kept peering expectantly at me at odd moments. I ignored it for a good while, assuming someone with more flair for fiction would adopt it. But it didn't leave my side. It was very patient.
So I nervously decided to make a new leap of faith, all the while afraid that it would end up being yet another project that would fizzle out, much like my attempts at knitting. Despite feeling unequal to the task, I took Nike's advice and made up my mind to just do it.
The story is a kind of fantasy/mystery/adventure with great promise. And, of course, I'm not going to breathe a word of it here. I'm jealously guarding the idea, not because I think anyone's going to steal it, but because it just feels more exquisitely possible when I keep it to myself. There's more freedom in it.
This is why I haven't been posting as much in the last couple of months. I wrote the first thirty or so pages with great fervor. And then the story unexpectedly stalled. It felt like I'd painted myself into a corner. I couldn't see where it would end, nor how I would even get there. So I stopped and am now outlining its course, giving it room to breathe, of course, but trying to capture the essence of it so I have a roadmap.
It's a delicious experience. :)
I'm still going to write posts here. It's fun, and it makes me feel like I'm doing something that can help both the animals and the environment in my own small way. Neither, unfortunately, has a voice, so we need to speak up for them. (More on the environment later.)
So that's it. I look forward to the day when I can share the completed story with you. And maybe Robert Redford will come to hear me tell it in his safari outfit.